Ki Tetze – Deductive Reasoning
Ki Tetze has an extraordinary number of Mitzvot in the Parsha, more than any other single Parsha in the Torah. Reading through it, one cannot help but see a reflection of Torah values expressed by the Mitzvot. We once mentioned Rabbi Dr. Twerski’s approach, that every negative commandment in the Torah addresses a human weakness. The Torah reinforces our resolve to overcome that weakness by force of a Mitzvah. (There is a lot to say about the psychological effects of that, which is actually counter-productive since it raises our contrariness to doing something imposed upon us, but that is for another time.) I Believe we can find similar lessons also in positive commandments, which reflect more than just the simple Mitzvah. They tell us about the spirit of the Torah and its general attitude toward humanistic values. We will just select a few of the more obvious Mitzvot since there are so many.
The very first Mitzvah, involving prisoners taken in war, deals with a conquering soldier who is ‘captured’ by the beauty of one of the maidens. Rather than forbidding him entirely from engaging in a relationship, which would likely lead to soldiers occasionally unable to resist temptation, the Torah prescribes a course of action wherein a relationship can develop. Without going into great detail, the conditions include taking the woman as a full wife, after allowing her a full month to grieve for her lost home and family. Afterwards, and only when he retains his commitment to affording her the care and respect due a spouse, he may marry her.
The outstanding value of this Mitzvah, in my eyes, is not the treatment due the captive, but the staggering expectations the Torah demands from a man having a relationship with a woman. Men can still take advantage of women today, and vice versa, but especially in primitive societies men had full dominance over women. The fact the Torah requires this degree of sensitivity and dignity toward even a captured prisoner of war reveals its view toward relationships in general.
The very next Mitzvah is that of a man with two wives, where he favors one over the other. He may not accord greater privileges to the children of one over the children of the other. While Rash’i relates this to the previous topic, a simple reading of the narrative shows the Torah’s discouragement from polygamy in general. While this is permitted by Torah law (not in practice for the last thousand years) the Torah is warning us of inevitable rivalry resulting from such relationships. One wife is bound to be ‘hated.’